From Derby shoes to Tuxedo suits to cardigans, menswear items with a placename in the title originates from that part of the world. Refreshingly – and confusingly – the Oxford shirt rebels against this.
The Oxford actually originated in Scotland in the Nineteenth century, when mills started manufacturing the textured fabric of the shirt we know today – a distinctive basket-weave pattern that combines two yarns woven lengthwise against a heavier yarn crosswise that, when contrasted in colour, gives a distinctive marled effect.
At the time this was being produced alongside three other fabrics also named after famous University towns: Yale, Cambridge and Harvard. A coincidental premonition of the fabric’s preppy future-to-be, perhaps?
While the other three fabrics gradually fell into obscurity, Oxford fabric ensured its survival in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries. It was at this time that polo players in the British Raj adopted it for their game shirt, recognising that its unique, light weave ensured maximum breathability during matches in the stifling Indian sun. It was at this time that players also added buttons to their collars to stop them flapping in their faces in the wind – and thus the button-down shape we know today was born.
This caught the eye of John E Brooks, one of the four grandsons of Henry Sands Brooks in charge of the burgeoning American tailoring company Brooks Brothers. Noting this practise, Brooks also started applying buttons to the collars of his dress shirts. This was the moment the Oxford shirt’s connection with the prep-tastic American East Coast was sealed. Only a year before in 1895 Brooks Brothers had introduced the relaxed, now-iconic Ivy League sack suit (notable for its relaxed shoulder jacket shape), cementing the store as the default dresser of the most moneyed, upwardly mobile young men in the USA. And when these young men bought their suits, guess what items they also bought in store to slip underneath?
In an ironic twist, by the 1950s the Oxford shirt now dominated the wardrobes of male students in Harvard and Yale – the two brother fabrics initially produced alongside it a century previously.
White Classic Fit Oxford Shirt
Grey Steel Classic Fit Oxford Shirt
Pale Mist Classic Fit Oxford Shirt
Navy Classic Fit Oxford Shirt